Interpersonal Leadership: Trust-Building
“Communications: Bridges for Trust-Building” (SL#76)
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® Vol. 7.2 - Trust-Building
(See also Skilltrack® 7.3 – Interpersonal Communication)
1. Communications that Build Trust
Communication: “People admire and respect leaders who are dynamic, uplifting, enthusiastic, positive, and optimistic--and who communicate such.” --Kouzes and Posner, The Leadership Challenge (see pp. 19-20)
A Summary Definition: Communication does not take place in isolation; it is a reciprocal process that may be the servant of those who want to be trusting and trust-building. In its simplest form the communication process includes:
- a message that is understood and formulated
- by a messenger, or sender, who has intended results,
- transmitted through
- a selected medium, or even several media,
- to a receiver, who understands the message; and based on the receiver’s understanding
- responds to the message and its sender
- in behavior or action, that may be positive or negative to the message sender.
(Adapted from pp. 31-34 of Blueprints, by Lloyd Elder)
Communications, as trust-building practices, are like building bridges for relationships and leadership. Bridges along the roadways we travel are built of the right material, structure, and size sufficient to carry planned wheel-loads across rivers, barriers, and chasms. Just so, our communication practices are like bridges to experiences along life’s journey.
Ephesians 4:28-29 teaches us that we are to do good things and to say good words. The text clearly teaches that through good [beneficial, useful, helpful, winsome] words and deeds we contribute to the welfare of others and build up those we serve in the congregation. Communication bridges connect us to others near and far, and so must be appropriate for the messages to be carried across barriers and on to our destination. Not to press the analogy too far, we must remember that we cross bridges by trust, and most often, we are not alone on the roadway of life and leadership. In summary, effective communications that build trust are significant, truthful, open, clear, timely; they are intended to be understood and helpful.
These communication traits, and others, are seen in a word picture recorded in Phil. 1:27. Let’s look at several translations of this verse:
- King James Version: “Let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ;”
- New International Version: “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ;”
- Williams New Testament: “Only you must practice living lives that are worthy of the good news,”
- Amplified Bible: “Only be sure as citizens so to conduct yourselves [that] your manner of life [will be] worthy of the good news of Christ;”
Trust-building communication in the congregation, is more than “a conversation” (as implied in the KJV), meaning simply to speak to one another. Rather, it means “a way of life, a lifestyle, or behavior.” In fact, the text means “living lives that are worthy of our citizenship, as those who are followers of Christ.” This means that we are to are to practice Christian communication consistent with our whole being: who we are, what we do, and what we say. Each one of us has the choice to employ communication within our leadership and ministry that builds trust.
1: an act or instance of transmitting; 2a: information communicated; 2b: a verbal or written message; 3a: a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of signs, or behavior communication; 4a: a system (as of telephones) for communicating; 4b: a system of routes for moving troops, support vehicles; 4c: personnel engaged in communicating; 5a: a technique for expressing ideas effectively; 5b: technology of the transmission of information. --Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary
2. Let the Scripture Teach
3. Interpersonal Communication Factors
The following communication factors flow out of the concept in the graphic below; the presentation helps us to view the role of communication, whether consciously seeking to build trust or not. (from SkillTrack® 7.3- Interpersonal Communications)
4. Trust-Building Communication: Tasks and Practices
How will you utilize the communication process to build trust between you and another person, or with your working team, or within the congregation? The following suggestions may assist you in making an assessment of your present practices, or plan your actions for further development. These behavior actions may also help you to install communication as a component of a trust-climate within the channels of your life and ministry. Remember, trust-building communication involves your whole being: who you are, what you do, and what you say. Each one of us has choices about building bridges of communication and using trusting communication in the many tasks of ministry:
First--Ministry Leadership Tasks Requiring Trusting Communications:
- sharing information, giving instructions
- supervising employees; directing volunteers
- counseling, guiding, comforting
- building trust and confidence
- nurturing fellowship, “hanging out”
- making and keeping appointments
- mentoring, coaching, team building
- evangelistic witnessing, sharing testimony
- fact-finding, idea structuring
- coordination, channeling, planning
- negotiation, bargaining
- evaluating programs and performance
- training; developing skills
- business contracting
- influencing, motivating
- delegating, making assignments
- decision-making and problem solving
- leading staff meetings, team meetings
- correcting, disciplining
Second--Communication Practices that Build Trust:
- Communication begins with your spirit; be positive, joyful, and confident. Let your words convey Proverbs 25:11: “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (NIV)
- Communicate through your presence, facial expressions and body language. A teacher has helped me at this point: “Communicate the gospel in every way; if necessary use words.”
- Be open, disclose yourself to others, especially with those in your significant circle; give them an opportunity to reflect and respond.
- Share your thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams with others. “I feel very deeply that our congregation should get more involved in ministering to the disadvantaged in our community.”
- Listen to what others say to you; really listen to them; one of the most powerful forces in the communication systems of the church is to let the members tell their stories.
- When you send a message, seek feedback for clarification and concurrence; or perhaps you want to create true dialogue between divergent viewpoints.
- Act helpfully on communication shared with you. What does the other person really mean and what is expected for you to do, or not to do.
- Think before you speak; understand what you want to say before you say it. Words spoken are often impossible to recall or undo.
- Say what you really mean; mean what you say, as the Scripture says, “let your “yes” be “yes”, and your “no” be “no.” This should not diminish the flow of pleasure in casual or humorous conversation.
- Share accurate, timely, significant information. “Need to know” is one test of trust-building within the congregation, or between you and your team. There is no place for misinformation or disinformation in trusting communication.
- Do not disguise issues and problems: “Our team has an issue to face; as I understand it, the issue has two parts. First,_______________; Second,__________________.”
- Discuss alternatives and options: “No one of us has the best answer. For the next 30 minutes, let us suggest and discuss options that we could consider; then we will move ahead.”
- Follow up on previous communications; move forward in the cycle of conversation or team discussion or decisions. Meet your assignments and keep your promises.
A closing thought from Warren Bennis to those who serve in
congregations today: “Leaders generate trust. Leaders will
have to be candid in their communications and show that they care. They’ve
got to be seen to be trustworthy. Most communication has to be done eyeball-to-eyeball,
rather than in newsletters, on videos, or via satellite.”
--Focus, Bennis, p. 105
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© 2007 servantleaderstoday.com; hosted and copyrighted
by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at www.servantleaderstoday.com
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership